Old towns, wine yards, and glorious gravel: the UCI Gravel World Series visits Monferrato
A forgotten area in the heart of Europe, a secret gem of beautiful ‘Strade Bianche’ just a one-hour drive away from the Milano airport, Turin or Genoa – the brand- new UCI Gravel Series is discovering the Italian area of Monferrato. A hilly wine-making landscape scattered with medieval villages and fortresses that spoils the eye and challenges the legs during La Monsterrato – Strade Bianche Monferrato.
The Monsterrato weekend consists of two parts: La Monsterrato Race on Saturday 3 September is the ninth event of the UCI Gravel World Series, the new world circuit that touches four continents. On Sunday, September 4, the sixth edition of Strade Bianche Monferrato will continue its amazingly successful tradition. The event is open to gravel, MTB, historic and vintage bikes with wide tires. Another highlight of the series will take place two weeks later in Catalonia: Hutchinson Ranxo Gravel (September 18) relies on a web (ranxo) of centuries-old gravel roads woven by local agricultural life. It’s a nearly infinite series of tracks that connects the most remote points of La Noguera and La Segarra for the first-ever Spanish UCI Gravel World Series event.
A few flat kilometres along the river Po allows to get acquainted with the hills of Monsterrato. It’s a wordplay made up of the terms Monferrato and sterrate, the Italian name for white gravel roads. The result is monstrous, which is the word that best describes the challenges of these tours. With some flat parts, the track is hilly, an almost uninterrupted succession of ups and downs with treacherous ramps at times over 10% and a couple of peaks at 17-18%. You will have to stay in your saddle, or the wheel might slip in these steep walls.
UNESCO World Heritage site
Riding past centuries-old towers, castles and churches in the historical villages or old farm-houses in the plains makes you feel like you are a part of history, too. Tradition is constantly within easy reach in Monferrato. La Monsterrato has always been some kind of Eroica with old bikes and bikers in traditional outfits.
The path of Monsterrato crosses the signs of several other bike routes. The most important is called ‘Le colline degli Infernot’ (The hills of Infernot). The village of Camagna Monferrato is not only crowned by the impressive church of Sant’Eusebio, but also hosts many of the so-called ‘Infernot’, hand-carved underground cellars peculiar to this area which in 2014 became part of UNESCO World Heritage site including the territories Langhe, Monferrato and Roero. A ‘terroir’ which is very rich of sights, wine and food. The area is surrounded by rice fields in the north; wine, truffles and walnuts in the south, with the famous cities of Alba and Asti.
Worth every drop of spilled sweat
The roads of Strade Bianche Monferrato are accessible year-round and can be found on Komoot. As are many other, more roadbike-related routes in this region, like the Infernot or the UNESCO-Tour. If you want to end your Italian weekend in September in traditional style, just a few kilometres from the Monsterrato you can experience the historical horserace Palio di Asti in the afternoon.